Answer the following questions after reading the article. Use the answer form provided to send the test, along with a $20 processing fee, to the State Bar. Please allow at least eight weeks for MCLE certificates to reach you in the mail.
1. Proposition 51 retains joint and several liability for "economic damages," but "non-economic" damages are several only and not joint.
2. Economic damages include anything for which monetary damages can be assessed.
HYPOTHETICAL 1 (Applicable to questions 3 - 5)
On Jan. 15, 1986, Plaintiff, a minor, was injured in a multiple car accident when the car his mother was driving was rear-ended by another vehicle (A), which vehicle in turn was rear-ended by yet another vehicle (B), forcing A's car back into plaintiff's mother's car. Upon reaching the age of majority in 1994, Plaintiff brought suit against A and B. A was uninsured and judgment proof. In awarding $30,000 in damages to Plaintiff ($10,000 economic), the jury found A 70 percent at fault and B 30 percent at fault.
3. Because A was judgment proof, B pays the full $30,000.
4. Assume the same facts, except the accident happened in 1994. B still pays the full $30,000.
5. Assume that only A rear-ended plaintiff's mother in 1994 and was at fault, but B was also sued as the owner of the car under Vehicle Code §17150, which makes the owner of a motor vehicle liable, within certain financial limits, for a permissive user's accident. B will be required to pay up to the statutory limits.
HYPOTHETICAL 2 (Applicable to questions 6 - 11)
In a slip and fall case, plaintiff brings suit alleging negligence against a premises owner and strict products liability against the manufacturer of a non-slip surface which was, in fact, slippery. The jury awarded $300,000 in damages ($100,000 economic), and apportioned fault 10 percent to plaintiff, 60 percent to the premises owner and 30 percent to the manufacturer. The premises owner settled before trial for $90,000.
6. Proposition 51 does not apply because the premises owner was alleged to be negligent while the manufacturer's liability arises from strict products liability.
7. Assuming Proposition 51 does apply, the pre-trial settlement is apportioned in the same fashion as the jury's apportionment, i.e., one-third to economic damages and two-thirds to non-economic damages.
8. In this case, even though only one defendant was present at trial, it was still necessary to have the jury apportion fault as well as separate the award into economic and non-economic damages.
9. Under Proposition 51, there is no offset for another party's settlement attributed to non-economic damages, even if the prior settlement, coupled with the amount owed by the remaining defendant at trial, would result in plaintiff receiving a total award greater than that given by the jury.
10. If plaintiff and the settling defendant apportioned economic and non-economic damages as part of the settlement as being $50,000 economic and $250,000 non-economic, it would not be controlling over the apportionment set by the jury at trial.
11. Assume the premises owner did not settle before trial and could not be found, and that Proposition 51's provisions are applied at trial. After trial, the premises owner is found and has substantial assets. The application of Proposition 51 at the trial bars the manufacturer's right to seek indemnity from the premises owner.
HYPOTHETICAL 3 (Applicable to questions 12 - 14)
Plaintiff was injured when forcibly removed from a bar by its bouncer. He sued the bouncer as well as the bar under a theory of respondeat superior. The jury awarded $20,000 in damages ($7,000 economic) and apportioned fault 90 percent to the bouncer (who had disappeared and was not present at trial) and 10 percent to the bar.
12. Despite this apportionment, the bar still pays the full $20,000.
13. Assume the bouncer was off work and beat up Plaintiff over a dispute over a parking spot. The bar still pays the full $20,000 because "comparative fault" does not apply as the bouncer is liable for an intentional tort while the bar is liable for negligent operation of its premises.
14. Assume the same facts as Question 13, but the bar is out of business and the bouncer is the only party present at trial. The bouncer pays only 90 percent of the non-economic damages, while paying 100 percent of the economic damages.
HYPOTHETICAL 4 (Applicable to questions 15 - 20)
Plaintiff was injured at work when a supplier left a pane of glass in an unsafe location and plaintiff bumped into it, breaking the glass. The employer's manager had watched the supplier place the pane in the unsafe location. The employer's workers' compensation carrier paid $15,000 on the claim for medical bills and loss of earnings. Plaintiff sued the supplier (the employer could not be sued because of the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act), obtaining a judgment for $45,000 ($15,000 economic). The employer and supplier were found to be equally at fault.
15. Proposition 51 applies regardless of the fact that the employer could not be made a party to the action.
16. The payments by the workers' compensation carrier are credited exclusively against economic damages.
17. The recovery against supplier is limited to $15,000.
18. The application of Proposition 51 precludes the right of workers' compensation carriers to seek recovery from a third party tortfeasor of payouts made on behalf of qualified injured workers.
19. Supplier should challenge Proposition 51 on constitutional grounds.
20. The provisions of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which limits the liability of medical providers, are applied before Proposition 51 is applied.